Man has always created space for intuitive functioning. There has always been a sense of surrender to a higher power. Be it Nature, Religion, Philosophy or Spiritual pursuits. The goal has always been to find the Art of Living whereby life is faced with less suffering, bringing ease to life through right Understanding. However there has been a gradual decline in the realm of understanding. Rigidity and fundamentalism has crept in within organizations that provide right understanding. How can Practice become part and parcel of life? How can practice become an integral part in all our interactions.
Lets take Music for example, Music is defined as a meaningful pattern of ‘sound’ rather than random ‘noise’. Meaning and Sound are woven together in an aural framework where we hear both concept and intonation. In singing we have an oral structure of knowledge and beauty each one amplifying the other. Likewise in the wisdom sense, knowledge and practice bring structure within. Concentration, command, clarity, composure and technique are brought to different expressive purposes and different aesthetic effects as each tradition achieves its own kind of flavor. Blind beliefs, rivalry and propagation have hindered the universal essence of religion. Time and again, there is need to revalue and restate philosophical notions to the need and spirit of the times. Wisdom seeking wisdom.
Life is an effort to sustain something that is not there. Money, Power, Relationship – We believe gives us joy and satisfaction. Based upon any one or all of this we try to bring stability to life. None of these three have ever remained stable. Yet we feel that Human existence is to sustain and stabilize this. If Money is an external gross bond, power is a subtle mental bond, relationship a relative causal bond. The base of all three being “Mine”…Subtly somewhere within (whether we accept or not) we do know that none of these will ever stabilize. Yet we try to exist in the bubble of instability. Every effort to sustain it, takes us from suffering to more suffering. In the effort to make permanent what is impermanent, the rhythm of life is lost. Money is meant to enhance the other departments of life, not to be consumed by them. The ensembles of the world are projected by the peculiarities of our mind. The adornments and the renunciations that the Self assumes can never cover this inward Poverty. The noise of ‘Desire’ surging within, blocks consciousness from noticing things. Desire connects us to the world. Desire can be channelized into effective action and creativity. Sense of value gives power to unite. The slightest measure of a way of wisdom alone can save man from great fear. Kant believes that – ‘All human knowledge begins with intuitions, advances to concepts and ends with ideas.’
When a person sees that he has lost his track, and all the aids that have been used are of no avail, then one has forgotten the meaning of life. One has not been living life, rather running after aids looking for short cuts. Life cannot be purchased. Life has to be lived in accord with Dharma. We need to listen to the spontaneity of life and understand the initiative of life, the flow of it, the energy of it that comes from the benevolent source of life itself.
Between the two ends of the visible and the invisible, Vidya and avidya (knowledge and ignorance), Samsara and Nirvana there is a sense of value that connects us all devoid of all divisions – the field of Dharma. Between the Sambhoga Kaya (life of enjoyment) and Nirmana Kaya (Body of transformation) there is the Dharma Kaya (Artha body, beyond concepts) that upholds and supports the Universe and the individual, thereby bringing a sense of balance. Knowing one’s own character and applying wisdom through right knowledge, effort and understanding, aligns one to the Wheel of Dharma, which releases one from bonds of suffering thereby bringing freedom in the mind and consciousness. The Way never acts, yet nothing is left undone.
Man’s quest for wisdom, his search and his seeking come from a deep longing and yearning to know. This longing has always been part and parcel of his existence. Education, information, knowledge in all fields, theology, psychology, anatomy, physiology etc., are all man’s attempts to know. This deep yearning, goes on and on throughout one’s life time. When we look at the Personal Factor in the long drawn educational need in a person, it goes on and on until the end of life. A newborn child needs nourishment for its growth and sustenance, and this need lasts till the last moment of life. Whether we know it or not, whether we act upon it or not, each human being has this thirst for wisdom that follows him as a shadow until the end.
There is also an aptitude for activity that goes on within each individual. There is an invincible creative urge, inherent in oneself that seeks expression through activity. Man is a social being. He is interconnected, and his interactions with fellow beings, affects him in many ways. On a deeper level, there is a deep sense of value that is a connecting factor. Beyond all peripheral ideas of gender, community, religion, and all kinds of social colorations, there is a philosophical entity, the truth that life presents without labels. A central focus of consciousness which gives orientation to the direct bearing on what is happening here and now in the individual’s life, within the framework of the time space continuum in which action and reaction are relevant. If the world of name and form is considered of no consequence two major realms of our life on earth, aesthetics and ethics will have to be treated as make believes.
A world citizen recognizes the entire world as his/her state and in principle does not recognize any member of the human race as alien to the world community to which he/she belongs. Such a person recognizes the earth as ones sustaining Mother, the innate inviolable laws of nature as ones protecting Father, all sentient Beings as ones brothers and sisters and kin and the world without frontiers and borders as ones home. When this kind of attitude happens in a person, his norm and connecting link is the foundation of Truth through Universal wisdom standing on the ground of all values.
In today’s world of Technology, where the whole world is interconnected, in a web of communication, there is a need to revalue and restate rigid and one sided beliefs and views in the wisdom frame of reference. The Universal teaching of the Buddha is relevant today, in the spirit of the times. The wisdom of the ancient seers bring forth a deep understanding of the human psyche and the functioning of the universe, which holds true at all times. Contemplative knowledge of the science, the structure and the functioning of this wisdom, brings a shift in our conditioned limited sense of understanding. A shift in the deep layers of our conscious-unconscious, determines the way we project and see things. It is this sense of values that we need to impart and share among other fellow human beings.
In order to create healthy Dharma Centers, we need to know where we stand today with reference to the time, clime and need of the present day individual, social and universal norms. Are we still stuck in the past understanding of suffering? Have we moved on with the changing times? Do we have an understanding of the wisdom that holds good for all times? How do we apply and impart that wisdom in today’s scenario? Are we stuck in a practice that promises Nirvana? Even seeking for Wisdom can be rigid and conditioned in a conditioned mind. Renouncing and moving away from a competitive world, we bring the same competitive mind to monastic life. We get ambitious to gain money, power and position. We shift from material comforts and desires to spiritual comforts and desires. Does this help nourish the pursuit of wisdom? Or are we stuck in a safe cocoon in the name of spirituality? Are we getting ambitious in promoting our institution/organization? Are we trying to propagate and convert others to our belief system? Are we turning a universal teaching into a closed cult? A healthy and truthful look at these questions that lurk over is essential before we move on further.
Life presents itself just bare as it is. Spiritual practice is another form of conditioning the conditioned mind. The physical, the emotional and the intellectual need proper nourishment and sustenance. When the vital energy of a person is kept healthy and nourished, it reflects a sense of contentment and strength thereby upholding the key to awareness and happiness, which one carries wherever one goes. A sense of gratitude and humility sustains it.
The Physical realm of desire can be channelized into food for strength, nourishment and sustenance. We experience the world through our sense organs and organs of action. When a contemplative sense of Self is developed with the appropriate knowledge of ethics through the science and functioning of the universal rhythm of life, it awakens a natural sense of aesthetic awareness. Such a shift in consciousness opens and gives space to bring forth the creative innate inner potential and skill of a person into a kind of social aesthetic. Knowledge, action and silence go together. In this realm a healthy Dharma center could focus on the following:-
* Study and contemplation of Traditional wisdom – Scriptural study
* Comparative study of Contemplative Traditions – Sharing of wisdom
* Study of Ethics – Ethical Practice
* Chanting – Purification of mind and Organs of Perception
* Zazen – Awareness, silence and mindfulness
In the second deeper layer of consciousness, the emotional realm needs appropriate nourishment and sustenance. The space for creation, dedication, development and expression of inner latent talents, one on one interaction, realization and acceptance of limitations and strengths, meditative awareness and mindfulness finds space for expression. Creativity and sense of aesthetic go together here. In this realm, the following could be offered:-
* Cultural Exchange – Sharing of Traditions
* East West Universe on the Wisdom of the Absolute – Unitive Understanding
* Symphony of Values – Contemplation Arts
* Sharing of skills and finding expression through Theatre, Art, Music, Architecture, Cooking, etc.,
* Meditation – Mindful Silence
Lastly the third layer of consciousness, the intellectual realm needs appropriate nourishment and sustenance. From the calming ease and stability of the physical and the emotional realm, the intellectual realm is motivated into right action. Here the intellect is engaged in applying wisdom in the field of action. Motivation, word dynamics, applied knowledge, comprehension of Truth. Here application and engaged spirituality go hand in hand through Social Action:-
* Sharing Wisdom in Schools and Colleges – Developing Soft Skills
* Sharing of awareness on hygiene and environmental consciousness in Villages – Wisdom Dialogues
* Conducting Yearly Seminars/Conventions – Unitive understanding of World Wisdom
* Zazen – Meditation, Mindfulness, awareness, silence
* Creative workshops – Creative empowerment
* Meditation, creative workshops and wisdom dialogues in prisons – Prison Outreach
* Meditation, creative workshops and wisdom dialogues for people with addictions – Recovery Programs
* Spiritual care for the dying and their families – Palliative Care
A healthy Dharma Center is like a model village that holds and respects all traditions, is Universal in its outlook and application, sustains and supports ecological balance, socially extends its wisdom to all who reach out and creatively facilitates engagement, connection and sharing of skills and needs. Sense of value, gives power to unite.
Today spirituality is not to propagate, promote or carry out the function of a missionary. Historically in the past, this may have been the trend. As things are constantly undergoing change, so is the structure and mind of the times. The Tech world that we live in today is more favourable to Universality than to division. When we are trying to overcome problems of division, why do we need to create more labels and divisions? It is a time when science stands parallel to philosophy and meta physics. Science acknowledges the unknown factor that Einstein called – “Spooky Reactions” – the unknowable. Even though science has progressed over the ages thereby making life easy, comfortable and safe in many ways, there is also the progress of weapons of mass destruction. Do we want to massacre and destroy one another just over our ignorant notions and ideas?
The I-Ching says – “Do not combat your own faults directly. As long as we wrestle with them, they continue victorious. The best way to deal with evil, is to make energetic progress in the good.”
Women are naturally gifted with a sense of intuition, just as much as a man is gifted with physical strength. There are many women teachers in this gathering that have been persistent and stable in their own intuitive conviction and have made a mark in the global arena. Regardless of gender, if we are able to stand together and function to the best of our ability, we can support and sustain one another and in doing that, we in turn support, sustain and nourish ourselves.
The role of Spirituality is not that of an activist, but that of kindling the conscience and consciousness of a lover of life in all. As we study the scriptures and the teachings of the great Masters of the past, a unique truth unfolds within us, which is unique to our own nature. Having spent 12 years in a mountain Monastery training in mindfulness and awareness, Jane Hershfield, did not write a single poem, but there after when she left the monastery and went out to live in the world, she blossomed as a poet. The poetry that came forth was enhanced with an eloquence that touched many and she emerged as an international poet of fame. A Jewish Rabbi and a Benediction Priest spent several years in the monastery training in mindfulness, awareness and silence. The wisdom and practice took them deep into the roots of their own tradition and they became Universal teachers within their own religious tradition. The famous Leonard Cohen, the Canadian singer went to Mount Baldy to practice with a Japanese teacher and his lyrics and life thereafter deeply reflected life itself. Each one is unique, and let us blossom in our uniqueness.
Nirvana they say is – “Getting rid of non-existent misery and attaining ease and peace which is the natural state of Being.” May we all find ease and peace as we co-exist together in this beautiful Universe. A Zen Mast once overheard two of his student’s converse as they watched a flag flying. One said – The flag is moving, the other said – the wind is moving the flag. The mast said – neither the flag nor the wind, but the mind is moving.” It was Gandhiji who said – “Be the change you want to see.” Let us find clarity to be the change that we would like to see and to contribute to the next generation. Thank you!
* Please post your suggestion, ideas and thoughts. This is just a paper that was prepared for a paper presentation. I invite you to share openly and to open up a discussion.